A Howard County Circuit Court judge yesterday set Jan. 18 for the trial of Linda R. Tripp on charges she illegally taped a phone conversation with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky.

Judge Diane O. Leasure also scheduled hearings Nov. 19 and Dec. 13 to hear arguments on legal motions in the case. Tripp's lawyers filed motions in August asking the court to dismiss the case against Tripp, arguing that the indictment was obtained using evidence Tripp provided under a grant of federal immunity. State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli contends that the immunity arrangement does not cover his evidence. In addition to the wiretapping charge, Tripp was indicted by a Howard County grand jury July 30 for illegally disclosing the contents of the taped conversation to Newsweek magazine. Each charge is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Jan. 18 was selected as a trial date because it afforded Tripp the right to speedy trial, said lawyers close to the case. However, Tripp's lawyers said she is prepared to waive this right to have more time to prepare for trial.

The first motions hearing will deal with technical legal issues. The second will deal with the immunity issue and likely will include testimony from the office of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr, according to Tripp's attorneys. Tripp provided Starr with her tapes of phone conversations with Lewinsky in January 1998 only after she reached an immunity agreement with his office.

The tapes triggered the investigation of President Clinton that eventually led to his impeachment.

CAPTION: Linda R. Tripp speaks to reporters July 29, 1998, outside a courthouse.